The first Democratic debate of the 2016 cycle took place last night from the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. All eyes were on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders waiting for the jabs to start flying. However, as the evening wore on, the jabs were few and Clinton walked away with a performance that will most certainly help her moving forward.
Report from the New York Times:
On Tuesday night, after months of political heartburn, things finally started cutting Hillary Rodham Clinton’s way.
Her performance at the first Democratic presidential debate was so commanding that even her greatest vulnerability — the lingering controversy over her private email practices as secretary of state — ended up redounding to her benefit.
After she crisply explained that she made a “mistake” using a private email server and defended her judgment, the moderator, Anderson Cooper of CNN, turned to her biggest threat in the primary campaign so far, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, in hopes that he would attack her. Mr. Sanders instead came to her aid.
“Let me say something that may not be great politics, but I think the secretary is right — and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” Mr. Sanders said to cheers and a standing ovation from the Democratic audience.
“Thank you!” Mrs. Clinton said, reaching out and shaking his hand. “Me, too! Me, too!”
That may have been the biggest headline of the night, that none of Hillary’s democratic challengers wanted to risk the ire of Democratic voters by harping on the same issues that the Republicans are harping on. For Hillary, count this a major victory as it lets her continue to paint the questions about her email practices, and the Benghazi terrorist attacks, as nothing more than partisan witch hunts by her political opponents.
However, as moderator Anderson Cooper tried to note, there is an FBI investigation into her State Department email setup so it’s not entirely a partisan issue. However, Cooper was drowned up and shut down by Sanders on the topic so it definitely swung Hillary’s direction.
As for the rest, I think Chafee came off somewhat aloof and unprepared. He stumbled for answers and didn’t defend himself very well. Martin O’Malley had a decent performance but nothing that is going to break him out into double-digit poll numbers.
Jim Webb may have been the most interesting candidate to watch on stage as he sided with more moderate positions than, perhaps, the entire rest of the Democratic field. On guns, Webb argued against gun control. On climate change, Webb argued in favor of “all of the above” energy including the use of nuclear power, something that often is derided in progressive circles. However, Webb is not going to move the needle with this performance because, as the rise of Bernie Sanders shows, the Democratic base is not looking for a conservative Democrat, they’re looking for a progressive leader to continue the work of President Obama on issues like social justice, climate change, and income inequality.
The bottom line is that Hillary Clinton emerged largely unscathed and came off very polished, she’ll surely be helped by this performance.